No matter what time of year you visit a ski town be it summer, winter, or fall, it’s always a party scene. There are so many articles about the best après ski towns or best bars but what about unique drinks? Perhaps something with history, tradition, or one-of-a kind for a region. We’re all about trying different things especially after such an amazing winter. Here’s what we think are 4 of most unique drinks in ski towns in North America with one honorable mention.
Most Dangerous “Coffee” – Gun Barrel Coffee
Big White, British Columbia
Like many a drink before it, the Gun Barrel Coffee was inspired after a few libations. Brian Spence, a previous owner of the Gun Barrel Saloon at Apex Resort, was enjoying a couple of late-night drinks & decided to take the antique double barrel shotgun of the wall and use it to make a hot cocktail. Nearly three decades later and a relation to Big White Resort, the result is a time-honored tradition & awe-inspiring flame show. It starts with a double barrel shotgun aimed at a sugar-rimmed glass filled with coffee, brandy, crème de cacao, and whipped cream. The drink is finished off with flaming Grand Marnier shooting down the steel gun barrel into the glass. Truly a one-of-a kind drink!
The Elk Frost
Crystal Mountain, Washington
The micro-brewery scene has exploded in EVERY ski-town throughout North America. But, it’s nice to find a beer inspired by one of the most famous ski bars in America… the Snorting Elk at Crystal Mountain Resort. The Elk Frost is a specialty microbrew created by Elysan Brewing specifically for Snorting Elk owners and management.
Aquavit – Scandinavian Tradition
Ever since folks perfected the art of sliding down a snowy slope, the concept of après went along with it. While in the beginning most enjoyed drinks in their own homes, it was when the fun transitioned into Norway’s social clubs that the modern concept of “après” really caught fire. What did they drink? Aquavit! Loosely translated as the “water of life”, this is a flavored spirit similar to Schnapps. In Scandinavia, the traditional way to drink it is socially with food and friends. The tasty concoction is poured into small shot glasses & taken in one swig with a toast of “skoal!” With such a close connection to skiing, it’s only natural that a few ski towns would start distilling their own.
Linie… The Original
For those wanting to try a true Scandinavian version, look no further than Linie. The most famous brand, meaning “line” in Norwegian, is sold in fine liquor stores throughout the U.S. Traditionally, each cask containing this aquavit must travel across the equator or the “linie,” twice before it’s sold.
Rolling River Distillery
Similar to the concept of “IPAs” in beer, the Pacific Northwest has its own style to be anise-forward with a dash of experimentation. Rolling River Distillery is a great example of the traditional Scandinavian classic with a Portland twist. They offer not just one but many, such as the Ole Bjorkevoll Aquavit. This drink contains caraway, dill and fennel combining for a lightly, spicy, smooth & savory finish. Let’s just say you’ll be yelling “SKOAL!”
One of the best aquavits for sipping cold and straight comes from the Montgomery Distillery in Missoula, Montana. Distilled from wheat with caraway, bog myrtle, lemon peel, and other botanicals, it has an approachable flavor profile that wins over aquavit enthusiasts and skeptics alike.
Check out Aquavit Week’s page for a full list of aquavits made in the U.S.
Most Canadian Cocktail – The Caesar
Are you a fan of the Bloody Mary? Well, the Canuck version of this tasty delight was invented in 1969 by Calgary restaurateur Walter Chell, inspired by the dish Spaghetti alle Vongole in Rosso (spaghetti with clams & tomato). Nearly half a century later, the Caesar is still going strong. It’s made with either vodka, gin or tequila, Clamato (a blend of tomato & clam juice), Worcestershire sauce, and a spice mix (which may include horseradish, hot sauce and other spices). Just like the Bloody Mary in the U.S., each Canadian ski town’s watering hole has their own variation on the Caesar. In Whistler, Fitzsimmons Pub affectionately known as “Fitz Pub”, is where the locals head. Their recipe is a fan favorite, topped with house made ingredients and curated garnishes from BC’s finest artisan food producers.
Honorable Mention: Sourtoe Cocktail
Dawson City, Yukon
We know this place isn’t close to a ski resort, but we had to at least give a shout out to this legendary drink & inspiration behind our list of one-of-a kind cocktails. In Dawson City, just a few blocks off the mighty Yukon river, sits the Sourdough saloon. What starts harmless enough as a shot of whiskey transforms into the ULTIMATE dare of a drink… it includes an actual human toe that has been dehydrated and preserved in salt, used to garnish a drink of your choice.
The Legend Of The Sourtoe Cocktail
It all started back in the 1920’s when the rum-running Linken brothers — Louie and Otto — got caught in a blizzard. Louie put his foot through a patch of ice and soaked his foot. To prevent gangrene, Otto used his axe to chop off Louie’s toe. He placed the toe in a jar of alcohol to commemorate the event. Then in 1973, legend has it that Captain Dick Stevenson found the jar (and the toe). He came up with the idea of the Sourtoe Cocktail Club — an exclusive club, with one membership requirement. In order to gain admittance to the club, potential members must drink the legendary sourtoe cocktail. There’s just one rule: “You can drink it fast. You can drink it slow. But your lips must touch that gnarly toe.”
These are the most unique drinks in ski towns across North America we’ve found in our travels. We know there’s a bunch more out there, so be sure to let us know what we should keep our eyes peeled for on our next adventure.